What You Can Do for Water Quality

Education // August 25, 2021

Did you know that more than 300,000 people rely on the Wissahickon Creek for water to drink, bathe, clean, and cook? That’s why keeping the creek and its surrounding watershed clean is so important. August is National Water Quality Month, which means it’s the perfect time to educate ourselves on where our water comes from and how we can preserve it – and we’ve put together some tips on how you can help protect our drinking water sources!

Find out where your water comes from.

Do you live in the Wissahickon Watershed? How about the Tookany-Tacony-Frankford? There are seven major watersheds in Philadelphia that flow into the larger Delaware River Watershed, while our drinking water comes from the two major rivers: the Delaware and the Schuylkill.

Depending on where you live in the city, your water may come from either the Schuylkill or the Delaware River. The Philadelphia Water Department has three water treatment plants, the Baxter Plant, Queen Lane Plant and Belmont Plant. The Baxter Plant in the Northeast cleans water from the Delaware. Both the Queen Lane (East Falls) and Belmont (Wynnefield) plants source water from the Schuylkill (including water from the Wissahickon Creek). And of course, all of the water is treated and further cleaned before getting to your tap.

Making a connection with your local creek or stream is a great way to understand the importance of watersheds – and get involved in protecting them!

Watch what you put in the watershed.

Water flows downhill – which means whatever you put in a watershed eventually ends up in a river stream, or creek! However, there are great ways to minimize your impact on your local watershed.

  • Reduce the amount of chemicals you’re putting in the watershed. Washing your car at a car wash instead of in your driveway, avoiding using fertilizers and pesticides, and ensuring that hazardous chemicals get disposed of properly rather than poured down the drain goes a long way to help prevent pollution of our drinking water.
  • Rethink that lawn. Lawns don’t soak up stormwater very well and require lots of chemicals, but there’s a lovely and low maintenance replacement: landscaping with native species! Planting rain and pollinator gardens will ensure your property can absorb much more rain and encourage biodiversity in your neighborhood, too. Last but not least, you can also install a rain barrel to collect rainwater to water it – if you live in Philadelphia, here’s how to get one for free.
  • Pick up after your pet. Dog waste is very acidic and contains lots of fecal coliform bacteria, both of which negatively impact the water quality.

Educate others about watersheds and water quality.

You may know all about your watershed – but do your neighbors, friends and family? If you can, share this information so more people know about the importance of protecting watersheds and water quality. Another great way to do this is participating in the Philadelphia Water Department’s storm drain marking program, which adds stickers to storm drains reminding people not to dump hazardous chemicals and indicating which watershed the drains flow to. Email green@fow.org to get more information on this very cool volunteering opportunity!

Support watershed organizations.

Friends of the Wissahickon works with our partners at the Philadelphia Water Department to protect and improve the water quality of the Wissahickon Creek – and we need your help, too! FOW’s park cleanups do the important job of pre-treating the water by removing plastic waste, and our ongoing sustainable trail and streambank restoration projects slow erosion from stormwater runoff in the park and reduce the amount of soil in the creek. Help us out by volunteering with FOW or even becoming an FOW Member to keep the creek clean for generations to come!